If you looked at the image above, you are probably sitting there with your head in your hands crying about how the sandbox genre has been overtaken by (crappy) Minecraft clones. ECO will hopefully be the game that revolutionizes this relatively stale area of the gaming industry through the use of… education?
Strange Loop Games, the developers behind ECO, aim to redefine educational games by creating experiences that, instead of shoving various historical facts in your face, make you want to learn. They plan to craft games where information is helpful to the gameplay, thus encouraging you to absorb the content of your own accord.
ECO is just one of these ideas, and has attracted funding from the US Department of Education. It puts players in a living, breathing multiplayer world that continues whether anyone is online or not. Through poor decisions, players can permanently destroy the world and cause a server-wide permadeath.
So, how do you prevent the world from getting destroyed?
At the start of the game, two things threaten it: a world-destroying cataclysm, and you.
Obviously the first requires you to survive in the world, while building the relevant technology to avert the disaster. The second, however, requires you to keep an eye on the ecosystem–and the finite resources that fill it. Failure to manage these properly can lead to you losing an important material imperative to survival and, as a consequence, dooming civilization.
You can prevent these resource issues by suggesting laws that restrict players from killing more than X of a specific animal, or chopping down Y amount of trees in a day. Alongside the proposed laws, you can attach real game data to support your argument and help win over votes. Any laws that are passed become physical limitations that cannot be bypassed.
Strange Loop Games will be launching a Kickstarter campaign for ECO in the coming months, immediately followed by Steam Early Access. You can sign up at the bottom of their page for for updates, although I’m sure I’ll be covering any major developments as I’m interested in the game myself.